Democratic Party of Japan chief Katsuya Okada announced Tuesday that he will run in the party’s presidential race on Sept. 13, with a majority of party members backing his bid for re-election.
Okada, who led the DPJ to huge gains in the House of Councilors election last month, is likely to be uncontested in his bid for a two-year term. His current term expires at the end of September.
“I became the party leader (three months ago) not because I wanted to,” Okada told reporters, referring to his appointment after Naoto Kan stepped down over his past failure to pay into the mandatory national pension system.
“But now I bear an immense responsibility toward the people to make a regime change since I led the DPJ to win more seats than the Liberal Democratic Party in the Upper House election.”
No other candidates are likely to emerge to challenge Okada before election campaigning officially kicks off Monday. If no contenders materialize, Okada’s re-election will be approved by party members at a convention on Sept. 13.
Some younger party members had planned either to run or to put up a rival candidate, but they are apparently having trouble collecting the minimum 20 party-member names needed to nominate a candidate.
There has been some internal friction in the party since Okada contradicted DPJ heavyweight Ichiro Ozawa on the issue of constitutional reform during a trip to the United States in July.
Ozawa has stated that under the current war-renouncing Constitution, Japan can engage in the use of force as part of United Nations peacekeeping activities.
But on his U.S. trip, Okada countered that the Constitution should be changed for Japan to be able use force, even under the auspices of the U.N.
At Tuesday’s news conference, Okada outlined his plan for party reform, pledging to select candidates by the end of March in all 300 single-seat constituencies for the next general election of the House of Representatives.
The plan includes beefing up the party’s regional footholds, with an eye toward the party holding a majority in local assemblies.
He also advocates increasing the percentage of female DPJ lawmakers from the current 10 percent to 30 percent within 10 years.
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